Briton questions veracity of news about the USA
November 14, 2002 7:13 AM   Subscribe

I know its the Guardian but does the US media really show such contempt? Anyone got any examples?
posted by lerrup (22 comments total)
Show such contempt for what? Themselves?
posted by brantstrand at 7:29 AM on November 14, 2002

Speaking as a member of the coveted 18-34 age group, I'm not convinced that the 34+ crowd is any better informed than my peers. I mean, does Fox News really count? The ignorant and the well-informed belong to all age groups.

As for the contempt - I think it makes Boomer-era journalists feel superior to characterize today's young people as ignorant and unaware. "Sonny, in my day I read 4 newspapers every morning, in 8 feet of snow, barefoot! We didn't even have paper then, we read the news off slabs of slate that we hauled in 7 miles from the nearest town..." Yawn.
posted by junkbox at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2002

Okay, no offense, lerrup, but this article is borderline-incoherent, and I don't understand how it relates to either of the two questions you asked. What's the basic premise of the article? 18-34 year olds are a unique demographic group? Corporate-owned news media has an interest in attracting said group that statistically is most adpet at consumer spending? This just in: Isaac Hayes is black.

So... yeah, what brantstrand said... please explain what you're asking us to discuss here.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:40 AM on November 14, 2002

Let me tell ya, today's young people are ignorant and unaware, when you aggregate them. Same as today's old people, and yesterday's young people and so forth.

And so what? We have created a place in which it is very easy to get along without every really knowing anything about anything.

And the author of that article must have knocked that off while on the crapper or something, because it only barely resembles english.
posted by Fabulon7 at 7:43 AM on November 14, 2002

I just returned from the bank, and was accosted by representatives of both "papers" as they tried to foist their publications upon the public.

As a member of the target demographic, I can safely say that Red Eye and Red Streak are both destined to fail. Being almost identical in name and in format, they cancel each other out in the arena of name recognition. As for content, they amount to little more than a dumbed down version of their respective "adult" counterparts, with lots of Christina Aguilera photographs.

In short, they'd appeal only to those 14 and under. I don't think that's enough market share to work with in Chicago, but I may well be proven wrong. As one pleased to see young people reading anything at all - even papers as worthless as these - I hope that I am.
posted by aladfar at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2002

If you are interested in one media critic's analysis of what these dueling rags, oops, papers mean for (and to) Chicago, this article is a good read.
posted by mapalm at 7:51 AM on November 14, 2002

I'm just amazed that it was possible to dumb down the Trib and the Sun Times.
posted by ednopantz at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2002

"The only problem, say the publications' critics, is the same one as ever: the writers and editors, who are not part of their target demographic, seem to suffer the urge to patronise their audience and embarrass themselves in the process. "There's never been a publication that had such obvious contempt for its target audience as RedEye," Bob Cook wrote in the online magazine Flak. "

That's all, thankyou aladfar, I didn't think I was being quite as cryptic as all that. ( No I don't just read the Guardian, that link was just lazy).

There we go, I thought the point of the article was how crap the media in the states were at "...attracting said group that statistically is most adpet at consumer spending?".

I'm just trying to increase my cultural understanding, that's all.
posted by lerrup at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2002

As a member of the "US media" (I'm a reporter for, let me answer this way: Yes, the decisionmakers -- people such as Don Hewitt and the publishers, top executives and editors of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tribune -- do have contempt for the American people. They particularly have contempt for those who are younger than them, earn less than six figures a year, are from the South, or are overweight.

Some reporters have the same attitudes -- witness the New Yorker's Mark Singer, who has a particular need to spend paragraphs describing the hairstyles and waistlines of poor Southerners he meets in his "American Journal" dispatches -- but most reporters have respect for their readers. I do.

In short, yes, the high 'n' mighty types in American media have contempt for their listeners and viewers, but rank-and-file reporters and editors don't.
posted by Holden at 8:06 AM on November 14, 2002

I'm in the target demo, and I've been hit up by reps for each paper as I leave the train station, work, school, lunch, at random places on the sidewalks...and you want to know something? I've never taken a single one of their free papers - but I have seen people who do take them - a lot of them are pushing 50. How does that hit their demo?

The other thing that bothers me about this is that they're just pissing people off by forcing their papers down their throats. You should hear some of the comments as I WAIT IN LINE to leave Union Station every morning - we're all waiting in line to leave because RedEye and RedStreak have signs and reps lining the small path leading to the street from the doors. So, I get hit up with the Reds when I leave my train station. A block away, as I enter the Sears Tower, there's two or three more reps. When I leave at night, there's a rep outside the doors again, and then there's one two blocks away outside Osco, then another outside Dunkin' Donuts a block away from that, and another outside Jimmy John's a block away from that. I know I'll personally be glad when they're done with their "free trial".

Ednopantz - yeah, you should see the covers - one had something about Britney Spears as the lead story. Wow.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:10 AM on November 14, 2002

Perhaps newspapers should do their own thing and not be so concerned about being hip and with it. I've found that, if anything, television's role as a visual and proletarian medium has made the newspaper's role as a text-driven and egalitarian medium that much more important.

However, in the great race to the bottom (and to the advertisers), newspapers have forfeited just about any sense of authentic news gathering and reporting in an attempt to appease advertisers and reach out to untapped demographics.

If newspapers want to be successful, they need only continue what they used to do best--give the news. And don't dumb it down to an 8th grade readng level please. Let's try to educate the masses, hmm, rather than just keep them at a pre-high school reading level.
posted by Hammerikaner at 8:34 AM on November 14, 2002

I see the Reds as a desperate attempt by these media outlets to retain a standard of information at which they've heretofore been allowed to reign supreme.

As I tell the woman from the New York Times, who calls every other month or so, I get my daily news from places like Google News, or even (*gasp*), The NYTimes Online. Not only is the information available at a rate that puts print publishing capabilities to shame, but because I can hear it from 50 people, I can more easily subtract author bias from fact.

PC Magazine stopped printing issues a couple of months ago because they felt that their print schedule was no longer relevant to their subscriber base. Everyone who read PC Magazine at the time was reading information that they'd read or seen on the internet nearly 2 months prior.

A friend of mine works for an online migration advertising agency in Manhattan. They specialize in getting advertising streams adapted to online markets. They're currently fighting with print media every step of the way, as the dinosaurs don't want to give up the swamp to the new mammals. Red Whatever is just another symptom of this...
posted by thanotopsis at 8:36 AM on November 14, 2002

One thing that troubles me about this article is that they don't mention how many 18-34 year old's now get their news from the internet. I hardly think that this is irrelevent and I think that it should have been included in this article.
posted by Raichle at 8:41 AM on November 14, 2002

thantposis, according to their own site, PC Magazine still publishes a print edition... to stop doing so would cripple their advertising revenue. They now have an optional digital version of the print edition at the same cost of the print one, which contains an exact facsimile of the magazine, ad pages and all.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:03 AM on November 14, 2002

Anybody remember the Weekly Reader these "papers" seem to remind me of that somehow!
posted by Pollomacho at 9:05 AM on November 14, 2002

I'm in the age demographic and I can at least agree that the media is slave to what they think is interesting to its audience. They'll publish anything that they think'll sell and ignore the rest. For instance, take the lack of media coverage of the East Timor genocide during the incident. In Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent (filmed at the height of the genocide), he interviews a bigwig from a major paper. When asked about the lack of coverage of East Timor, the bigwig said something along the lines of, "we didn't think the American public was interested". I don't wanna get into Chomsky's conspiracy theories, but the bigwig's reply is an indication of how arbritarily stories are published.
posted by freakystyley at 9:10 AM on November 14, 2002

I imagine some of you suspect that media organizations heavily use focus group research, do you?

Usually, it's not about some evil, old white men in New York deciding to kill certain topics. Focus groups tell publishers what they like to read and what does not interest them. Just like in Hollywood
Angry at the dumb new Hollywood blockbuster? Well, look at what happens to most of the small, intelligent movies out there.

The media market is very, very competitive and tough. Newspapers need readers, and ad revenue. Between quality and success, guess what they're going to choose in order to survive (focus group opinions are reassuring, at least to marketing executives -- newspapermen are obviously, thank God, more skeptical).
posted by matteo at 9:19 AM on November 14, 2002

News . . . paper? What the . . . you mean people actually print the news on paper? Why would they do that? By the time you could print someting on paper and disseminate it to the masses, seems like it's already fallen off the front page of most of my news sources. What'll they think of next?!

I'm 32 and I haven't purchased or read a paper in . . . how long has the Internet been around?
posted by vraxoin at 9:30 AM on November 14, 2002

matteo: Yeah, there are focus groups too... unfortunately, I'm inclined to think that people who participate in these groups are usually there for the $50, the doughnuts and the coffee. In other words, people who are likely to have low income, little education, and lots of time to spare. The question is, between these people, and the executive in NYC, which is the lesser evil :)?
posted by freakystyley at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2002

The biggest problem for advertisers is that members of the 18-34 age group (particularly urbanites) are 20 times more media savvy than the companies that want our money. Any newspaper that reeks of corporate shilling (like the two Reds) becomes immediately uncool and is bound to ruin the indie cred of any poor slob caught reading it. A horny 50 year old man is definitely gonna grab one - look at Christina Aguilera's butt! - but any nominally cool 28 year old guy is gonna treat it like a viper.

I hope they focus-grouped these rags on the kids from Brand Camp. Fruit Snatch, anyone?
posted by junkbox at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2002

(A permalink to mapalm's Reader link -- a new column gets posted later today.)

Having looked over the two papers side by side, I can't believe either will make it very far. As aladfar said, there's little content to them, and what's there is dumbed down well past the target demographic.

I work in a PR firm, and I showed the papers to several people here. A 22-year-old and the 59-year-old CEO both preferred the RedEye (quick briefs, prettier layout), while a 34-year-old, a 27-year-old and a 55-year-old all preferred the Red Streak (more content, less condescending). I don't know if that says anything, but none of the people I showed it to thought either would last long.

In the meantime, it looks as if the Reds will kill Newcity, the second, smaller alt.weekly in Chicago.
posted by me3dia at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2002

Of course, one should note that the Chicago Reader has long published The Reader's Guide, a slimmed-down edition distributed only in the suburbs. It drops most of the features and classified ads and focuses on reviews and listings of arts and entertainment, and takes up one pocket-stuffable section instead of the beefy four that usually make up the Reader. And nobody's ever really complained, except the few suburban venues that were then no longer getting free full-size Readers.
posted by dhartung at 12:00 AM on November 15, 2002

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